Schpritzing fruit

Fresh fruit syrups for home-made sodas

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If I had to pick a last meal, it’d probably be a sandwich of fresh, crusty (REAL) sourdough bread, spread with home-made mayonnaise and topped with thin slices of really good ham, Wensleydale cheese and heirloom tomato…with an ice-cold glass of home-made limeade. The sandwich might be optional, which explains why I spent much of last Saturday making fruit syrups for limeade and such.

Just in case you don’t think we take our fruit seriously around here…

Yup. That's a lady dressed as a blueberry.

Yup. That’s a lady dressed as a blueberry.

Was a bit rushed Saturday morning so instead of shopping the BIG farmer’s markets I hit up the one down the block, in the grocery store parking lot.

You can walk it in maybe 15 minutes–there aren’t more than a couple dozen booths–and it’s as much craft and snack fair as produce market. But there’s always something interesting there.

Today, Blueberry Woman caught up with me at the Pearl Bakery table. “Did you know,” she said earnestly, grasping my arm with blue-lacquered fingernails, “That besides being delicious, I’m also one of the most nutritious berries in the world? I’m just stuffed with antioxidants, which may help prevent cancer!”

“I am,” she concluded triumphantly, “One of the best things you can buy in Oregon! So please, eat me and my brothers and sisters!”

Stuff like this is why I love Portland.

Ironically, blueberry season is pretty much over. Not that I’m complaining; I plucked the equivalent of THREE LAUNDRY BASKETSFUL of blueberries off the bushes in my backyard this summer, and I am just about blueberried out. The first hugely plump, rich berry popped into my mouth on July 1, and I ate the final stragglers for breakfast on August 24. Two months of all-you-can-chomp blueberries is pretty good, right?

As a final hurrah, I spent a couple of hours this afternoon making fruit syrups, about the most delicious way I can think of to dress up a cool drink.

I don’t drink soda pop; it’s just too sweet. That was a problem early on in my reporter days; PR people tended to equate “journalist” with “boozer,” which I decidedly was not. They kept seeing right through the soda pop I was holding (and not drinking), and swapping it for a “real drink.” I was too shy to say no,* which made for some shaky-footed press conferences.

A fellow reporter told me to order tonic-and-lime. “Looks like a gin and tonic, and you can drink ten without going under.”

It worked; it’s still the only bottled beverage I like. It doesn’t, however, have a patch on the home-made stuff, which I’m just discovering.

Last month, a guy at work offered me his extra soda schpritzer for $5. That was a steal, so I gave him a fiver and took the thing home to figure out what to do with it.

schpritzers-citrus

Schpritzers are kinda cool–you fill them with liquid, screw the cap on tight, and then screw a CO2 cartridge into the side. It injects CO2–carbonation–into the water, and you schpritz it out into your beverage.

My first attempts painted limeade all over the kitchen. (Never use TWO cartridges).  A Facebook friend gave me some tips (such as you’re only supposed to put water in those things), and I finally got the hang of it.

Nowadays I come home from work, schpritz myself up a cool beverage, and curl up in a shady chair on the back deck, reading and sipping. I think I’m beginning to get the whole “cocktail hour” thing.

A couple Facebookers asked for the recipes I’m using, so here you go. (Apologies to those who grew up with cocktail hours and soda schpritzers; this’ll be old hat for you folks.)

Simple citrus syrup

Ingredients

  • A dozen or so citrus fruits. In this batch, I’ve got 9 limes, 2 lemons and a tangelo
  • Water and sugar in equal proportions. I like to use white granulated sugar for 80% of the amount, and brown sugar for the rest; it gives a nice color and richer flavor
  • 1 cardamom pod for every cup of water
  • 1 drop of pepper mint oil for every pint of water

Directions

schpritzers-zestschpritzers-citrus-2Zest all the citrus into a big bowl. Take out about 2 tablespoons of the zest and put it in a dutch oven, along with the water, sugars, cardamom, and peppermint oil. Heat this on the stove to a rolling boil and stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.

Let it simmer until the level of the water goes down by about a half inch. Remove from the heat and pour over the zest in the bowl, then set aside to steep. When it’s cool, bottle and store it in the refrigerator.

Juice all the citrus fruits; you should get about 2.5 cups of juice.

schpritzers-drinkschpritzers-citrussyrup-strainerTo make a drink, fill a glass about 1/3 of the way with syrup, schpritz in carbonated water and add ice. (Again, I know everyone else in the world knows this stuff and I’m coming late to the party, but hey…)

The peppermint oil is a trick my friend Carol taught me; I would never have thought to put it with fruit, but it really brightens up the flavor. Just don’t add too much; like the cardamom and nutmeg, too much tastes medicine-y.

I’m told this stuff also makes tasty popsicles, but so far I’ve reserved mine for drinking.

Mixed berry syrup

Ingredients

  • schpritzers-berries-zestAbout four cups of berries (I used blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries)
  • Water and sugar in equal proportions. I like to use white granulated sugar for 80% of the amount, and brown sugar for the rest; it gives a nice color and richer flavor
  • 1 cardamom pod for every cup of water
  • 1 drop of pepper mint oil for every pint of water
  • Cheesecloth
  • A few grinds of fresh nutmeg

Directions

Make the syrup as before, but add nutmeg, and wrap the cardamom pods in a cheesecloth bag for easy retrieval later. If you leave them in the blender, you’ll get splinters in the syrup and a more medicinal taste.

schpritzers-berryblenderWash the berries, hull the strawberries, and put them in a big, heatproof bowl. Mash them a bit to start the juices flowing. When the syrup is ready, pour it over the berries.

Let it sit until cool, then put it in the refrigerator and let it steep overnight.

In the morning, pull out the cardamom pods, then dump the mixture into the blender. Process until smooth, and strain through cheesecloth to get out the worst of the skins and seeds (but you don’t have to be fussy about it).

To use, put 1-2 tablespoons of syrup in the glass, then schpritz in the soda water, add ice and drink. You can also use this stuff to flavor lemonades and teas, or my favorite tonic water. If you cook it down a bit, it makes a nice pancake or ice cream syrup, but who’d waste it on that?

You can freeze these syrups, but they make rather sticky ice cubes.

Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll go to bartender school!

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*The shyness didn’t last (understatement of the year), but by then tonic-and-lime had become my beverage of choice.

2014-12-24T11:06:08+00:00

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